Loony drove fast and about five minutes later, pulled up beside the Honda, which had been waiting for them at the end of Falomo Bridge. He stopped and gave a thumbs-up sign to the driver, before pulling away. While taking a quick look, Bunmi realized that the Honda, which drove behind them again, had two male occupants in it.
They drove fast for some minutes, pausing only to wait for two of the several traffic lights on Victoria Island’s Ozumba Mbadiwe Street to change.
Soon, Bunmi realized that they were headed towards Lekki. She hadn’t been there in over five years, but she could recognize the landmarks. The roads were wider now, though, and each side had four lanes.
In about five minutes, they came to a structure, which stretched from one end of the road to another. She soon realized that it was comprised of multiple toll gates.
Another new development.
She was silent, as Loony paid the toll fare to an attendant, who had a friendly smile on her face.
He smiled, as he collected a receipt from the girl. “Keep the change,” he said and drove through the raised barricade.
Bunmi turned to her window and rolled her eyes. Generosity and friendliness in these circumstances? How noble of you.
A few meters away, they got to an intersection with a big roundabout, which she recognized. Loony turned left till they were in front of a large entrance with a sign that read “Lekki Scheme One”. The big gates to that entrance were open and he slowly drove through them.
Bunmi turned in her seat to look at him. “Where are you taking us to?” She could hear the fear in her voice, but she didn’t care. When she got no answer from him, she whipped her head around, to the man at the back. He still had the hood of his shirt over his head, but she could see his eyes. He was staring at her.
“Please, do not hurt us. I don’t have anything you guys would want. I’m only here for my grandmother’s burial. I beg you. Please, let us go.”
When he looked away, without saying a thing, she hunched her shoulders in defeat and turned away from him.
She realized immediately that Loony was pulling into a street she knew very well. Some of the fight came back in her. Eyes flashing she turned to him again, “What exactly is going on here?”
Just as she had suspected, he pulled up to a house with high walls. By then, both arms were folded over her chest. She was fuming. After honking twice, a uniformed guard came through a side gate to their car. She recognized him. Loony lowered his window and the guard smiled.
“Ah, oga, na you? Welcome. I been no know say na you.”
“That’s alright, James. How body?”
“Body dey inside cloth.”
Both men laughed and the guard looked into the car. His eyes widened when he saw Bunmi. “Aunty, na you be this? E don tey o!” His face broke out in a huge grin.
When she didn’t respond, but only glared at him, the guard’s smile faltered and he looked at Loony, who cocked his head at the gates. In less than a minute, the guard had thrown them open and they drove into a very spacious compound.
As soon as the car was parked on the gravel driveway in front of the house, she opened the door and rushed out of the car and to Loony’s side, just as he was climbing out slowly. “How dare you?”
“Just doing my job, ma’am,” he responded, almost nonchalantly.
The door at the back opened and the tall man came out of the car. He had removed the hood so his face was no longer shielded. As soon as she saw his face, she realized why his voice had sounded familiar and her eyes narrowed.
Drawing up to her full height, she looked up at him. She was wearing flat sandals, so his six-foot-three-inches frame towered over her five-foot-six- inches body. Raising an eyebrow and putting on the haughtiest voice she could muster, she asked, “Is this what you do for him, these days?”
His face tightened and she was glad to see that she had struck a raw nerve.
When she pushed past him to unstrap Joanna, who was still asleep, she realized that Loony was trying to do the same with Jake. “Loony, don’t lay a finger on my son,” she snapped, glaring at him.
Loony raised both arms and backed away from the boy. Then, grinning, he looked around, “Loony? Who’s Loony?”
Ignoring him, she spent the next few minutes rousing her kids and getting them out of the car, while both men watched. The tall man looked at her children, when they were out of the car, and smiled. Even though he was still smiling when he looked at her, she could see that it didn’t reach his eyes. “I see you’ve been busy.”
He glanced at the twins again and she understood what he meant. She also realized that he had been trying to disguise his voice in the car.
She pursed her lips and shook her head. Then, she led her sleepy children up the marble steps at the entrance of the house, muttering words of encouragement to them.
A few seconds after she pressed the bell, the door was opened by a woman. As soon as they stepped into the house, Bunmi brushed aside her cheerful greeting and the arms that reached out in a welcoming hug.
“Where is he?”
She shook off the tiny voice of guilt when the smile on the rotund face gradually died and eyes that clouded with hurt stared back at her.
“He’s waiting for you in his study.”
She took a few steps away from the woman, before turning back.
“Thank you, Ma Agnes.”
The woman smiled softly. “You look wonderful, my dear.”
With a small cry, she let go of the twins’ hands and flew into the arms of the woman she had known all her life. “I’ve missed you so much.”
Ma Agnes held the woman, she considered a daughter, in a fierce hug. Soon, she loosened her hold. “Go. You know he hates to be kept waiting.”
As the trio walked along the long corridor, Jake asked in a whisper, “Mummy, where is this?”
“Nowhere important, baby. We’ll soon be heading home.”
“It’s a beautiful house, mummy. I like it here.”
She smiled softly and rubbed a hand on Joanna’s hair, which was held in place by a pink band, with a bunny clip-on. Yeah, it’s a beautiful house, baby. Once upon a time, I dreamt of taking you round the whole of it.
She shook those thoughts off, as they turned a corner on the right. She saw the door of the study at the end of the short corridor and her heart rate picked up. When she got to the heavy door, out of habit, she gave three short raps on it. Without waiting to be invited in, she turned the handle and opened the door.
Expecting the softness of a plush rug underneath her feet, she was surprised to feel the hardness of a marbled-tiled floor. He’s finally changed the floor.
She turned and gently led the twins in, before shutting the door. A deep voice from the right spoke, “Welcome home.”
She turned in that direction. He was sitting behind his wide hand-carved table, a small smile playing on his lips. He looked every inch a successful man, as he played with a gold pen with long fingers, at the ends of which were perfectly manicured nails. His eyes fell on her children and he pushed back his chair and got to his feet.
He still looks so good. The years have been kind.
She knew he wasn’t a vain man, but it was important to him to maintain an impeccable physical appearance, at all times. Even meeting with her, in these circumstances, she knew that he would have made an effort to look nice.
He walked round the table and came towards them, stopping when he was about a foot away. Stretching his arms to the children, he smiled widely, his eyes crinkling at the corners.
“Come, babies. Come to me.”
Joanna inched forward, but a quick tug by her mother, made her halt. Bunmi felt a little movement and looked down at Jake. He had turned his head upwards to her. Reading the question in his eyes, she patted his head and held his hand tighter.
As memories of the past washed over her, she felt pain, sadness and love hit her at varying speeds. She lifted her head, but was careful to keep those emotions away from her eyes, as she stared at the man that now held her gaze.
Her chin came up a notch, in that show of defiance he knew so well. “Hello, Father.”